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America’s Collapsing Infrastrucutre

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It’s no secret that the United States has an aging and increasingly dangerous infrastructure. An embarrassment compared to Europe or Japan, Americans have decided that it is far more important to fight unnecessary wars and give our plutocrats lower taxes than to act like a modern country, creating a functional train system or repairing our vast roadways. Sinkholes are appearing in Washington D.C. and our state capital cities (not to mention everyone’s favorite winter game in Providence called “Pothole or Archeological Dig.” I felt like I was driving in Costa Rica or Honduras in February and March.) In the wake of the horrifying 2007 bridge collapse on I-35W in Minneapolis, the nation did basically nothing. Here’s a good graph on public construction spending:

Last night, a bridge on I-5 over the Skagit River north of Seattle collapsed. Amazingly, no one was killed. Very lucky. It has been 6 years since the Minneapolis disaster. Some states have prioritized bridge reconstruction but not Washington. The bridge at hand was rated as “functionally obsolete,” which is not the same thing as dangerous, but it was very old, built in 1955. State funding to make bridges safe from earthquakes is going away in 2015. Washington infrastructure gets a particularly poor rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers, especially on roads and transit systems. The ASCE said, “Bridges were awarded a C-, in part due to the nearly 400 structurally deficient bridges in Washington State. 36 percent of Washington’s bridges are past their design life of 50 years.” And last night we saw the effects of the state’s lack of infrastructure spending.

It’s also worth noting Andrew Rice’s essay on the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River, which will not exactly give you confidence to drive over that thing. Not that you have a lot of choice.

In short, we need a massive federal works program just to keep our infrastructure at a stable, functional, and safe level, not withstanding the need for high-speed rail and other new projects to keep the United States competitive with the rest of the world.

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